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Aitutaki fishermen pay respects for missing Rarotonga fishermen

Wednesday 23 March 2022 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in National, Outer Islands


Aitutaki fishermen pay respects for missing Rarotonga fishermen
Itiao Mataiapo, Andre Tapena (left) receives a donation from the Aitutaki Rainforest Club chairman, Junior Nicholls. SUPPLIED/22032101

In a show of solidarity, the Aitutaki Rainforest Men’s Club fishermen gathered last week to pay tribute to the two missing Rarotonga fishermen Toru Ariki Miria and Tekou Enua Tipene.

Chairman of the Rainforest Men’s Club, Junior Nicholls says, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the missing men.

“Not only were they fathers and members of families, they were also fishing colleagues with a common interest to support loved ones and their families especially during these times of struggle and challenges.

“These men were also part of our Aitutaki community, therefore their loss was felt by all of us.”

Nicholls expressed the importance of ensuring good planning, preparation and communication when out fishing, and that “no matter where you are, the risks are all the same”.

In 2020, a record  number of 155 people participated and received boat master certificates on Aitutaki.

Last year, fishermen on Aitutaki participated in the Boat Masters Training Course sponsored by the Cook Islands Government and just last week, the Rainforest Club fishermen received fishing lines granted through the Ministry of Marine Resources Small Grants Funding Scheme, as well as the allocation of lifejackets to each boat owner through the generosity of the New Zealand Coast Guard.

These programs are designed to encourage, educate and upskill people on all aspects of safety while at sea, including leisure fishing.

Although people often take matters for granted when fishing, one can never underestimate the power of mother nature when it comes to the sea which is why we place a greater emphasis on safety and a huge respect for the elements, said Nicholls.

 “Te akaroa, we understand these were experienced fishermen and we may never know what happened but we can certainly learn from this to prevent this happening to others in future,” he added.

Donations were collected at the club’s Wednesday night gathering and handed to Itiao Mataiapo Andre Tapena who was visiting from Rarotonga - to be given to the families of the missing fishermen on behalf of the Aitutaki Rainforest Men’s Club to show their love, condolences and support for them during their time of sadness and loss.

The missing fishermen were last seen on the night of March 5 while out net fishing in Rutaki.

Police stood down the official search and have referred the matter to the coroner.

On Saturday, a special farewell service was held at Rutaki Beach for Tekao Enua Tipene.